Books To Make You Feel

Jun 30, 2014

Salman Rushdie said, “literature opened the mysterious and decisive doors of imagination and understanding. To see the way others see. To think the way others think. And above all, to feel.”

Two new novels will grab you at your core, getting hold of your empathy, sympathy and humanity, as only good stories can.

In the mid-1990s, when the Grande Dame of Literary Agents could still-- possibly, even credibly-- think that computers in the workplace were a passing fad, Joanna Rakoff, at age 23, took a job as her assistant.

My Salinger Year is Rakoff’s irresistible memoir of the year she assisted this unnamed legendary agent whose clients included Judy Blume and, most importantly, the elusive and private J. D. Salinger—known as "Jerry" to those in the office.

Meet Jim Stegner: mid-40s, a fly-fisherman, painter and killer.

He is the masculine protagonist in Peter Heller’s new novel, The Painter. The opening line is masterful and captures our attention-- 45-year-old Jim reflects, “I never imagined I would kill a man.” From then on, Heller holds us until the very last sentence.

I have two cartoons clipped from the New Yorker displayed on my fridge door.

One is by Roz Chast, with the caption, “When Moms Dance”-- you know what we look like. And one is by Bob Mankoff, with the caption, “How about Never—is Never good for you?” Haven’t you ever wanted to say this to a persistent salesperson?

In one frame, Chast and Mankoff capture life’s telling moments with hilarity, brilliance and poignancy. Now, each has a new memoir for fans to relish.

Wichita native Matthew Vines has good news for gay Christians, especially those who are theologically conservative, in his groundbreaking book God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships.

While in his second year at Harvard, Vines determined the correct answer when he asked himself, “Am I gay?” His affirmation inspired four years of meticulous research of the most common uses of Scripture in admonishing same-sex relationships as sinful.

Jimmy Rabbitte Is Back

Apr 7, 2014

Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle introduced readers to Jimmy Rabbitte in 1987 in his beloved book about the finest soul band in Dublin, The Commitments.

The Guts, Doyle’s new novel, portrays Jimmy in his 47th year. He is married, has four children, owns a successful online music site selling the records of obscure ‘80s Irish bands, and has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The book opens in an Irish pub. Over numerous glasses of beer Jimmy tells his father about the cancer. We feel the love and the fear of both men as they work through the sobering news.

When the wives of the Los Alamos scientists learn that their husbands have spent years building the atomic bomb, their world is forever changed. Their pride is replaced with shock and disillusionment.

In her debut novel, The Wives of Los Alamos, TaraShea Nesbit gives us an intimate view of this unique community of educated women who sacrifice a secure life in familiar neighborhoods, are given new names, and are displaced with their children and husbands to a secret place “out west.”

I left a message for Nickolas Butler to call me so I could tell him some exciting news. A jury of book sellers selected his debut novel Shotgun Lovesongs to be among 10 books showcased by hundreds of independent bookstores upon release.

He was afraid to return my call since all the feedback he’d received about his beguiling story of Little Wing, Wisconsin-- a fictional town-- was critical of his interpretation of facts.

Greg Hernandez / Creative Commons

B.J. Novak cut his writing teeth on comedic TV scripts, most notably for "The Office" where he also played Ryan Howard.

Eventually, he got a book contract. Instead of a comic memoir, Novak set to work writing short fiction in One More Thing: Stories and More Stories.

Novak’s father was a ghost writer whose book Iacocca sold millions of copies but only paid a flat fee—from this, Novak learned how to negotiate the publishing world. He landed a six-figure, two-book contract with the most prestigious literary publishing company, Alfred A Knopf.

Let me start by saying that my friend who’s been in the travel business for more than 50 years has never been asked to arrange a trip to the Congo.